Trigger warning - This blog post discusses in depth accounts of psychosis and my experiences with this. It is intended to be an educational post on my experiences; however, I know this can be triggering for some people so if this includes you, please please please look after yourself and not read this post. If you still would like to read on, please consider the support of loved ones around you should you be affected by what you may read and take breaks when you need them. Imagine driving down a straight road; just yourself the driver, and a passenger sat beside you. Your going relatively fast but everything is going fine. But now imagine the passenger has just grabbed hold of the steering wheel and taken control, throwing the car to one side.
That is what psychosis feels like to me.
Before I get into this, I want you to think about something, after all, one of the reasons I do this blog is to challenge stereotypes and stigma. So when I ask you this question, answer it honestly (you're only cheating yourself if you don't.)
"You say psychosis, I say Psychopath. What IS the difference?
I'm going to assume, based on experience of speaking to others about this, that your first thought may have been something like:
"there is no difference. After all, You can't spell either without the word "psycho" "
Unfortunately over the decades, people with mental health problems have been notoriously stigmatised and used as a weapon to sensationalise a topic. After all, The media, whether it be printed press, online, TV or film; are selling a product to keep you entertained and make money - fair to say? We are conditioned to believe certain stereotypes about mental illness, often from an early age. Ok so this definitely happened more so in the past than the present but it's still something that happens.
So, what's the difference?
Psychosis and Psychopathy are two different things - think of it as "there", "their" and "they're"; they sound the same but have different meanings.
Psychopathy is usually described as a personality disorder characterised by antisocial behaviours, lack of remorse or empathy and egotistical traits.
Psychosis is a loss of control or grip with reality causing the sufferer to feel such things as superhuman powers or even seeing and/or hearing things which are not actually there. This can be a symptom of a condition such as schizophrenia for example, or could be caused by other variables such as substance abuse or even lack of sleep.
So now that is cleared up - let's go into my experience
My experience of psychosis really starts from when I graduated from college with a foundation degree in engineering. Life felt like it was full of prospects - good health, amazing girlfriend and career aspirations flowing out of me like water over Niagara Falls - I actually felt powerful compared to how I'd felt back in school. The daily torment of bullying and being beaten up in school had been a reminder that I was the lowest of the low; but this felt really good.
It must have been a few days later at most that I would encounter my first auditory hallucination. What I heard has thankfully been lost to the "sands of time" but it was in the soon to be common category of bullying hallucinations. This voice wasn't one I had heard before, not like an internal monologue - like where you think to yourself "whats on Netflix" etc. - this was as if you right now reading this, were to somehow shout for me to hear you; it was a disembodied voice which felt exactly like someone was stood beside me.
Far from being a one off, this voice got worse and worse from this point on - "she hates you, you know" "no one wants you here" "hey fat boy..."
Working in a huge facility, working a days and nights shift pattern, there are naturally points around the factory which are fairly dark areas on the night shift; "fat boy!" I remember hearing clear as the night sky as I was walking past a huge storage tank. I stopped, frozen to the spot and looked around hoping - no, praying - to see someone around who had maybe just shouted at me as a bit of "banter".
Nope. No one.
At this point I was petrified; but still, I couldn't tell anyone. I was scared of myself so how could I really say anything to anyone?
At home I would find myself becoming easily agitated, even just a normal question such as "what do you want for tea?" could cause the voices to start. Hearing these then made the room become extremely loud, to the point where I couldn't hear myself think. Nothing made sense. Several entirely different voices were screaming abuse at me whilst in reality, it was just me and Amber physically present.
First of all it was just voices I was hearing, but these voices wanted more - they took control. Over the course of a few months, my psychosis had pretty much destroyed the house to the point where we would tidy to live in shell of what it once was, only for it to then get smashed up for it to all happen again. Once this "thing" had control of me, I could do nothing but watch. Most of the time I just remember finally regaining control when this being had had its fun - almost like "i'm done now, you tidy it up."
Windows would be smashed, doors with holes in, walls with dents...
At its worst it became almost a daily activity as regular as brushing your teeth.
This then progressed - not only was I hearing things but soon I was seeing things. There were times where I would look down at my hands and see them covered in blood - feeling and smelling what wasn't there and Amber did everything she could to convince me that those things were not real.
The most common thing I would see was my brother Will, stood in every room I ran into while this chaos unfolded. Stood there in the last clothes I saw him in, before he passed away 5 years earlier.
It was difficult to seek help but I knew I had no choice. Ultimately it was the best thing I did and although it took some time to see a professional and the CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) (no disregard to the amazing staff, the waiting list was just huge at the time) it was the best thing I did.
One of my biggest turning points happened one evening when Amber and I were sat in A&E following one of many psychotic episodes and suicide attempts. I was still in this "world" where things were not quite making sense, but i knew enough to know where I was. Amber had needed support so she had contacted my dad from whom I had kept all of this very quiet. So, you can imagine my surprise seeing him walk through the front doors to take a seat beside me.
"Why didn't you tell me?" - Was the first thing he said to me.
And to be honest...
I didn't have an answer.
I was overwhelmed by the fact he took an interest in what was happening to me, someone outside of the "bubble" of me and my terrified partner, and wanted to know what was going on; and this showed me that it shouldn't be something to be ashamed of. It took some time but eventually I got the support we both needed to keep afloat and over time I've been able to get a good handle on my mental health, leading me to the amazing place I am in now.
Mental health, is NEVER something to be ashamed of. It is as common in the UK as 1 in 4 people - Psychosis is as common as 1 in 100 people.
I now take power from the scars left behind on my hands from this time; knowing how far i have come - from the brink of suicide and loss of all reality, to surthiving like i am today. These are the tattoos of my story and they remind me that no matter how bad things get, I've come back from what I hope to be the worst part of my life.
So, that is a brief account of psychosis - there is A LOT more where that came from and how it affected me, and I am just one of many people who have experienced psychosis in varying ways. Remember everyone's mental health journeys are individual to themselves so what happened to me, may not be what would happen to someone else, this applies to the processes of recovery - but if I can do it, so can you and I promise at the end of it all you'll have an amazing story to tell.
Stay Strong, Stay Safe